Nostradamus was expelled from medical school
Nostradamus was born Michel de Nostradame in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France in 1503. At the age of 14, he enrolled in the University of Avignon to study medicine and become a physician. His studies there ended after 1 year due to an outbreak of the bubonic plague. He then became an apothecary and extensively researched herbal remedies.
In 1522, he enrolled in the University of Montpellier (one of the world’s oldest medical institutions still in operation today) to pursue the completion of his degree in medicine. In class, he sometimes voiced dissension with the teachings of the Catholic priests.
There are some reports that university officials discovered his previous experience as an apothecary and found this reason to expel him from school.
There continues to be some debate as to whether he returned later to complete his medical degree, although there is no evidence to prove that he did. The expulsion document signed by procurator Guillaume Rondelet, however, still exists in the faculty library.
In addition to prophecies, Nostradamus published a cookbook
One of Nostradamus’ earliest publications was entitled “Treatise on Cosmetics and Conserves” which appeared in 1555. In addition to providing instructions on how to make blonde hair dye, laxatives, toothpaste (using ground cuttlefish bone and sea-snail shells, or—if your teeth are really rotten and decayed—blue clay) and a ‘rose pill’ lozenge to treat the plague, the book offered recipes for marzipan paste, candied orange peel, marmalade, cherry jam, quince jelly “fit to set before a king” and pear preserve “excellent enough to set before a prince.”
Nostradamus’s “love jam” is apparently so powerful and efficacious that “if a man were to have a little of it in his mouth, and while having it in his mouth kissed a woman, or a woman him, and expelled it with his saliva, putting some of it in the other’s mouth, it would suddenly cause … a burning of her heart to perform the love-act”.
The book is based on knowledge acquired by Nostradamus before he went to Montpellier to study for a medical doctorate in 1529. Prior to this, he was a wandering apothecary. It’s essentially a medical cookbook containing, as in many modern examples of cookbooks, the recipes of other people.
His predictions were based on events from the past
Nostradamus claimed to base his published predictions on judicial astrology—the art of forecasting future events by calculation of the planets and stellar bodies in relationship to the earth. His sources include passages from classical historians like Plutarch as well as medieval chroniclers from whom he seems to have borrowed liberally.
However, according to Peter Lemesurier, a former Cambridge linguist and professional translator who has written at least 10 books on the enigmatic figure, Nostradamus was neither an astrologer nor a seer; he simply believed that history will repeat itself. In fact, many scholars believe he paraphrased ancient end-of-the-world prophecies (mainly from the Bible) and then through astrological readings of the past, projected these events into the future. Using a technique dating back to biblical times known as bibliomancy, Nostradamus purportedly selected extracts from older sources at random and then used astrological calculations to project its recurrence in the future.
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His contemporaries criticized his astrological skills.
Before he published “The Prophecies” in 1555 Nostradamus was already known for his almanacs, which he had begun to publish on an annual basis beginning five years earlier. The texts provided useful weather information for farmers and predictions for the coming year, and eventually caught the attention of the queen of France, Catherine de’ Medici, who summoned Nostradamus to Paris to explain his predictions and draw up horoscopes for her children. However, not all of the attention he received was positive.
He was criticized by professional astrologers of the day for incompetence and assuming that comparative horoscopy (the comparison of future planetary configurations with those accompanying known past events) could predict the future.
Laurens Videl published a pamphlet in 1558 entitled “Declaration of the abuses, ignorances and sedition of Michel Nostradamus” in which he railed against both the content of Nostradamus’ predictions and his lack of basic astrological skills, stating: “I can say with complete confidence that of true astrology you understand less than nothing, as is evident not merely to the learned, but to learners in astrology too, as your works amply demonstrate, you who cannot calculate the least movement of any heavenly body whatever.”
Nostradamus’ prophecies were used as propaganda during World War II.
During World War II, leaflets with false Nostradamus quatrains predicting the defeat of France were launched by German planes over European skies. It seems that this operation was mastered by Nazi political secretary Rudolf Hess and that even Adolf Hitler believed in Nostradamus’ quatrains. Certainly, his propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels did, under the influence of his wife Magda.
Magda Goebbels stumbled upon a passage in the book “Mysterien von Sonne und Seele” (Mysteries of the Sun and Soul) in which one of Nostradamus’ quatrains was believed to predict that crises would develop in England and Poland in 1939.
The Allies retaliated with a bit of psychological warfare of their own, airdropping large quantities of flyers over German-occupied territories, claiming that Nostradamus had actually foreseen Germany’s defeat. In an attempt to boost American morale, MGM also produced a series of short films about the famous soothsayer.